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Thinking Person's Guide to Autism

The Harried Parent's Book Club Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Thinking Person's Guide to Autism
Cover image courtesy of Shannon Des Roches Rosa

50-Word Review

Designed as an advice-alternative for parents starting out on their autism journey, this guide offers practical tips and an overall message of acceptance and possibility. Rather than one single authority leading you through, it uses essays by parents, professionals, and autistic adults to give a varied, experienced, and long-range view.

250-Word Review

"This is the book we wish we'd been given when autism first became part of our lives: a toolkit bursting with carefully curated, evidence-based information from autism parents, autistics, and autism professionals ... to help you fast-forward past society's rampant autism fabrications and negativity by providing clear, thoughtfully presented, balanced, and referenced information."

If you're now at that first step with autism, and this description from the book's introduction sounds like just what you wish you had too, you'll find a lot to like in Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. It's sort of a sampler of all the books that might otherwise pile up on your nightstand -- personal memoirs, education advice, research on therapies and treatments, perspectives from parents and adults with autism.

It's also strongly in favor of scientific evidence over the theories thrown around by true-believing parents in waiting rooms and blogs and Internet forums, and as they say in those venues, your mileage may vary. (I was relieved and somewhat amused to see that sensory integration is now thinking-person approved, since when I started it with my son in the mid-'90s it was thought by many to be one of those quacky crackpot theories parents get sucked in by. Sometimes science catches up with us.)

The mix of topics and authors provides a nice introduction to lots of ideas and resources for parents new to the topic, but it also makes the book feel a little fragmented, like a particularly productive round of Web surfing. It's best at pointing you toward things you might want to look into more deeply, and fortunately most of the writers have an online presence you can follow up with -- as do the editors, in the excellent blog that shares a title with the book. Tune in to the voices that ring truest to you.

Is This Book for You?

It's definitely for you if: you have a child newly diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and are looking for reasonable and research-based advice ... you want to get a good overview of the latest thinking on autism before focusing in on what you need ... you appreciate a book you can read in small pieces without losing the thread.

It may be for you if: you're interested in reading a variety of viewpoints, even if they differ from your own ... you're looking ahead to things like school and future planning and want a glimpse of what's in store ... you enjoy the approach of the blog and want that in book form to share with offline friends and family.

It may not be for you if: you tend to put more faith in the experience of other parents than in scientists in a lab somewhere ... you're looking for a detailed look at one particular aspect of the autism parenting experience ... you're a more experienced parent who's already survived many of the challenges prepared for in the book.

It's definitely not for you if: you feel strongly that vaccines have damaged your child or special diets have saved him ... you are familiar with the blog of the same name and don't care for it ... you want a book that is solely personal memoir, or solely third-person information.

Table of Contents

  1. After the Autism Diagnosis: First Steps
  2. Practical Advice for Autism Parents
  3. Caregiving and Autism
  4. Therapies and Service Providers
  5. Causation Theories and Dubious Therapies
  6. Acceptance & Inclusion from the Parent/Neurotypical Point of View
  7. Autism—Adult Voices
  8. Autism—Parent Voices
  9. School and Education Issues
  10. Resources
  11. Editor & Contributor Bios

Try This Now

Because the book (a 2012 Readers' Choice Awards finalist for Favorite New Special-Needs Parenting Book) is an offshoot of a blog, you can find many of the featured essays online as posts, including these three that offer practical tips: To keep up on new articles on the blog (and maybe get a look ahead at this book's sequel?), follow the TPGA Twitter feed, @thinkingautism.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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